Jack Walther, DVM: A ‘Veterinarian’s Veterinarian’

Jack Walther has attended the WVC every single year for 48 years now.

What does someone have to do to get the Western Veterinary Conference named after him?

Plenty, considering that before this year the WVC bestowed the honor only five times. February 2013 will be No. 6, when the Dr. Jack Walther 85th Annual Western Veterinary Conference opens in Las Vegas.

During his 48-year relationship with the WVC, Walther, DVM, has done more than examine the latest exhibitor offerings, attend seminars and hob-knob with other veterinarians.

He has served as a WVC committee chairman since 2002, as a board member for more than 12 years and as conference president in 2005. Add to that his presidency of the American Veterinary Medical Association a decade ago and all he’s done for patients, clients and the profession throughout Nevada and the nation.

“Dr. Jack Walther is a veterinarian’s veterinarian,” offered Dennis McCurnin, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, the WVC’s current president. “He has served the WVC for 48 years and has been involved in nearly every office and committee.”

Walther is appreciative of the tribute, which includes a ceremony that starts at 7 p.m. Feb. 17, 2013, before comedian Jake Johannsen’s show.

“If I could write an end to my career as a vet, this is as high an honor as I could get,” Walther said. “It’s a dream come true for this to happen at this point in my life.”

Back to Work
Walther enjoys semi-retirement on his 300-acre cattle and horse ranch in Lamoille, Nev., at the base of the 11,000-foot Ruby Mountains.

When he’s not spending time with his five grandchildren, feeding his black Angus cattle, tending to a friend’s ailing horse or donating his time and medical know-how at the animal shelter in Elko, Nev., Walther is in Las Vegas as the WVC’s Clinical Proficiency Examination (CPE) coordinator.

In a program he was integral in securing for the WVC, Walther oversees the CPEs, which are offered monthly at the Oquendo Center. Successful completion of the CPE opens the door for foreign veterinarians who desire to practice in the United States.

“This effort has served to reduce the waiting time to take [licensing exams] from years to months,” noted Guy Pidgeon, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, the conference’s CEO.

After a mentor encouraged him to give back to the profession, Walther began attending WVC. That was in 1965.

“I’ve never missed one since,” he said.

Horse Sense
Walther knew from an early age that he wanted to make caring for animals his life’s work.

“When I was 9 years old I had a horse named Reno who came up lame,” he recalled, “and this vet came out in an old car and fixed my horse, and I knew at that point this is what I wanted to do, and I did it.”

He earned his DVM from the University of California, Davis, and served two years stateside during the Vietnam War with the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, which pointed him in the direction of small animal medicine.

“There weren’t a lot of horses in the Army, so I got into the small animal thing and have done that most of my life, mainly dogs and cats,” he said.

Since starting a small animal practice in Reno in 1965, there’s been almost no let-up in Walther’s dedication and service to veterinary medicine in Nevada. He sold his three Reno hospitals in 2000 and moved back to his ranch near Elko, where his great-grandfather once ran a 3,000-acre spread.

For five years, Walther has worked pro bono at the Elko Animal Shelter. As chief veterinary consultant, he conducts exams, administers vaccinations, and performs spay/neuter procedures and more complicated surgeries.

“We have the nicest surgery facility in Nevada,” he says proudly, a fact he credits to the largess of local gold mine operators.

“When I first came in, we put most of the dogs to sleep, but now very few are put to sleep.”

48 and Counting
As Walther scans the audience of admirers Feb. 17, he’ll derive great pleasure from seeing a crowd he’s had a significant role in building over the years.

“It’s sure been fun watching it grow,” he said.

And grow it has, from a small regional gathering to one of the largest veterinary conferences in North America, with more than 14,000 attendees in 2012 coming from every corner of the world.

In addition to naming the 2013 veterinary conference after him, the WVC retitled its scholarship program, which Walther was instrumental in starting in 2002, the Dr. Jack Walther Leadership Award.

Since its inception, nearly $1 million in awards have been handed out to students from every accredited veterinary school in the United States and Canada.

“How could anyone have done more for our profession, patients and society?” McCurnin asked. “I am honored to have him as my colleague and friend.”


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